This weeks readings all focus on the roles of gender in war and how they are challenged, upheld, rebuilt, or contorted to achieve a purpose of engaging or denouncing war. These articles tie in some of the concepts from last weeks reading, while introducing us to new concepts that made me think about America’s military, war as a gendered normative, and how gender can be constructed for purposes of war or peace.
In her article “Cindy Sheehan and the Rhetoric of Motherhood: A Textual Analysis,” Laura Knudson examines Cindy Sheehan’s peace activism through a textual analysis of her book Peace Mom and its counter American Mourning to examine the rhetoric surrounding the conflicting views about war, motherhood, and activism through a mother’s perspective. Knudson finds that the “central role of discourses of motherhood play in Sheehan’s ability to craft maternal politics of peace” (Knudson, 164). The rhetorical strategy of using motherhood as a trope has been one that dates back to the first wave of feminism. It is used to evoke pathos in its audience and gain credibility in an argument. This rhetorical strategy is is also extremely effective at achieving its purpose as it is hard to denounce a mother and her experiences. This is ironic as this trope of motherhood is also being used against itself to prove a counterargument, which is equally as effective. Sheehan’s argument that is most strongly linked to this idea is found on page 172. Knudson claims “…patriotisms mirror opposite is matriotism” (Knudson, 172). Sheehan’s smart argument turns patriotism on its head to refute all of its aspects of militarism, nationalism, duty to country, love for country, and replaces them with pacifistic arguments. This article, by Cindy Sheehan published in the Huff Post, further examines “matriotism” and its nuances, which add extra background information to Knudson’s article.
Rebecca A. Adelman’s research on post 9/11 photographs of the Iraq war help shape America’s narratives and meaning of “militarized and imaged masculinity in the global war on terrorism” (261). Her work titled “Sold(i)ering Masculinity” analyzed a collection of photographs from a volume of The War in Iraq: A Photo History published in 2003 and its militarized images as they correlate to race, ethnicity, and sexuality. Since September 11, 2001, remembering in America has adopted a new way of mourning as a patriotic duty. Americans were told by the government to return to consumerism while continuously commemorating those who died in the attacks (the twin towers as well). Popular rhetoric of that time anthropomorphized the twin towers as ‘twin brothers’ a symbol of our nations manhood. Adelman aims to understand how Americas post 9/11 manhood can be restored, through photographs of the Iraq war to help remember, reconstitute, and reaffirm American masculinity (Adelman, 263). This article provides understanding about the de-sexed nation after 9/11 and what it meant for men.
The section of her article I believe is most interesting is “Washed Clean.” Adelman opens the section with popular rhetoric that masculinized The Pentagon and the World Trade center as a place of business and war. The destruction of these two buildings threatened Americas masculinity. Adelman notes, “America was no longer male an impenetrable but proven to have porous borders and gaping holes in its security apparatus” (275). This leaves a “nostalgia for lost masculinity” (Adelman, 275) and the idea that masculinity was always greater in earlier history. This notion makes me think of political rhetoric of today. Trump’s use of reclaiming America’s masculinity through “Make America Great Again.” I question: what are we reclaiming that was so great in history? Why do we want to reclaim it when there are advancements being made culturally and socially? This New York Times article provides some context to Trumps rhetoric and adheres to the notion of American masculinity examined by Adelman.
Eva Berger and Dorit Naaman conduct a qualitative content analysis of many news images/captions to show the depiction of Israeli women soldiers in the mass media since the 2006 Lebanon War. In their article, “Combat cuties: photographs of Israeli women soldiers in the press since the 2006 Lebanon War” Berger and Naaman argue that there is a direct ambivalence in the Israeli media towards women’s service in combat roles and the idea that, “… since women combatants challenge social codes of gendered femininity in areas that are in constant state of war, their actions are contained and minimized in the images published in the press” (Berger & Naaman, 272). Berger and Naaman drew from both ‘enlisted’ media and privately owned media to support their arguments. It is no secret that women are underrepresented in the media, however I believe Berger and Naaman take this notion further in the section of their article titled “From combat cuties to combat pussies.” In this section, Berger and Naaman analyze the response of entertainment magazines to the 2006 Lebanon War. Specifically, the July 2007 Maxim Magazine, that was co-produced by the Israeli government, published an issue dedicated to five of the Israeli women soldiers, but were it not for the title of the shoot or the captions accompanying the photos, one would not know these women were soldiers. Berger and Naaman found that this issue “…. Embodies both the patriarchal and nationalist aspects of chauvinism” which in turn undermined Israeli women’s success in changing legislation to partake in combat roles in the military. Overall, Berger and Naaman concluded that violence threatens traditional notions of femininity and masculine order of military establishment that was prominent in all news or entertainment magazines. This article by NPR highlights the limitations set by the Israeli military and government through interviews with Israeli women soldiers.